It’s December 2019 and on a humid and languid lunchtime break from my job as an arts manager I wander down, as I often do, to the local camera store in Auckland, New Zealand. This is the first step of a journey that will see me change my whole photographic philosophy and become a Fuji convert.
I’ve decided to go full frame and upgrade my Canon 7DMkII to the new EOS R. For a hobbyist I’d invested heavily in Canon with L series lenses, filters, and flashes, and I mostly enjoyed shooting samey old landscapes that we’ve all seen hundreds of times before and lots of birds in flight. So here I am in the shop milling around in the Canon section, not really committing to anything, and I’m approached by a gentleman in a black t-shirt with an X on it. I had no idea what this was or what it meant. He didn’t mess around and straight away asked me what my obsession with full frame was? It turns out under the gentlest of cross examination I couldn’t give even a half satisfactory answer. So, he steers me to the Fujifilm display, the key goes in the cupboard and out comes an X-T3 with a 16-80 f/4 R OIS WR attached. From that moment on I was sold. 3 weeks later I have exchanged all my old gear and am holding my own X-T3.
I’ve reflected a lot on what made me make such a hasty and dramatic system shift; for me there were two main reasons. Firstly, I have always been interested in mirrorless; it is our present and future. Technology is evolving so quickly and; the size and weight savings; improvements in autofocus; useful information displayed on the EVF, are all combining to make SLR technology more and more obsolete. But for me the biggest factor was the tactile adjustments, the dials, and feeling of crafting and image rather than snapping a scene. The custom C1, C2 and C3 settings on my 7DMkII had served a useful purpose, but once I had set them up, I now realise over time I had become sloppy and was no longer thinking about how, or to what end I was capturing an image. All I was doing was treating my large bulky gear as a giant point and shoot. The Fuji system has changed all that for me. I am now involved in the photographic process in a way I never was before.
So, armed with my new X-T3 and 23mm f/2 (the Fujicron primes seemed like a good place to start with lenses) I was ready to get out and start a new photography adventure. However, one thing that has united us all in 2020 is the global pandemic of Covid-19 and it quickly became clear that Aotearoa would be affected like the rest of the world. Within weeks of getting the camera, before I had really got to grips with the camera we were in total lockdown.
Bereft of any chance of shooting my usual birds and samey landscapes I turned to fellow kiwi photographer and Fuji user Adrian Malloch who suggested I take on a lockdown assignment and just observe the seemingly mundane around me to document my experience of this moment in history. It seems crazy now, but I hadn’t even considered this documentary style of photography before.
Really though what the lockdown gave me was time. Time to think about all components of making a great photograph and dial in the settings in a tactile way like a potter smoothing the edges of a plate or painter mixing their palette. Observe, don’t rush, look across the whole frame, ask yourself what story the image is telling, compose, slow down, check, check again and shoot. Yes, I was very frustrated when I was missing shots with the new system, yes it drove me nuts the differences in AF capabilities (the 7DMkII is lightning quick on servo mode) and a million other differences I can’t even think of, but I knew that I was at the bottom of a hill I wanted to climb. The images that accompany this article are the result of this assignment and are my first real outing with the X-T3.
I’m feeling more and more confident with my Fuji gear. 6 months ago, I had never ever given Fujifilm a chance; I was a snob and a fool. Now as my arsenal of Fuji gear has grown to include the 16mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 and I feel at home in a new system. New Zealand is feeling more and more as it was, returning to our new normal. Unlike the rest of the world in NZ we have almost become observers of the pandemic, looking into the chaos and terror from afar. Like all of us 2020 has changed me as a person and photographer. Moving to Fuji has been a big part of that. It won’t just be birds in flight and samey old landscapes in my new normal. I want to document what is happening around me, be immersed in people and places in the same way I am now re-immersed in the image taking process. That was my first 6 months with a Fuji, I can’t wait for the next.
More images from the lockdown assignment can be found at this link.